Trauma-informed care in child/family welfare services

CFCA Paper No. 37 – February 2016


There is growing awareness of the need, and a strong rationale for the value, of implementing a trauma-informed approach to human service delivery. Such an approach has been adopted and implemented extensively in the USA. In Australia, there is a strong push towards trauma-informed approaches to care, and recognition of the impacts of child abuse and other traumas as a driver of service need. However, there is confusion with the array of terminology used and a lack of reference to specific trauma-informed frameworks to guide the introduction of trauma-informed care in a systemic way. Despite the need, and the conceptual/theoretical rationale, it is important to acknowledge that there is limited empirical evidence to show that working systemically to be trauma aware and providing trauma-informed systems of care leads to reductions in trauma symptoms or other positive outcomes for clients.

Currently, there is no overarching policy to mandate trauma-informed care and no framework to guide evidence-based practice to transition in a systematic way to trauma-informed care in Australia. In addition, improvements to collection of research data and adoption of standardised outcome measures for evaluation would support a more systemic approach to evaluating the implementation of trauma-informed care.

There is value in capturing practice-based evidence; however, this is beyond the scope of the current paper, and would be best carried out via a systematic and rigorous approach to gathering and synthesising information from practitioners working with traumatised clients in a variety of fields - as well as the views of those in service delivery systems that are not yet trauma-informed to examine the barriers and enablers of system change. Similarly, there is a need to articulate findings from the emerging field of trauma-informed practice into concrete policy statements or frameworks that can be applied to different client groups within and across a range of service systems and settings.